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Simple Italian Cuisine

We recently returned from a trip to Tuscany where we ate, prayed, and loved! One of the best evenings we experienced was the farmhouse dinner at Fattoria il Poggio, a working winery, olive orchard, and farmhouse in Montecarlo, Lucca. It was a beautiful evening with fabulous food, wine, and good friends. They made a spelt soup that I could live on. (After I find a regular spelt supplier, I will make it and share the recipe if it’s okay with the folks at the farmhouse.)

Below is a recipe for Tuscan panzanella. According to my Food Lover’s Companion, panzanella is an Italian bread salad made with onions, tomatoes, basil, olive oil, vinegar, and seasonings and chunks of bread. . . . According to me, it’s delicious! My non-traditional version has a bit of fresh parmesan shavings on top for taste and garnish. Pair with a Tuscan Pinot Grigio.

Traditionally, this salad is made without the heat of an oven with leftover bread. (The Italians did not/do not throw bread away. They gather it up and use it in soups, salads, whatever works.) You can opt to toast or grill your bread first, but the original is stale bread soaked in a bit of water. I prefer soaking in a little water and olive oil mixed.

1 clove garlic, cut in half
1 2-day old country loaf or ciabatta, thickly sliced and torn into 1-inch pieces
6-7 ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 T drained capers
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 hothouse cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
½ c fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c cold water
¾ c + 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
¼ c red wine vinegar
Shaved parmesan

Mix 1 c cold water and 2 T extra virgin olive oil in a large bowl. Toss torn bread into mixture. Working with a little of the bread at a time, remove excess water by squeezing the pieces gently in your hand. Rub a large salad bowl with the garlic clove. Place the softened bread into the salad bowl. Add tomatoes, drained capers, red onion, cucumbers, and basil to the bowl. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

In a small bowl, add the vinegar and whisk in olive oil. Drizzle salad with dressing and toss. Chill. Garnish with extra basil and add more dressing before serving.

I would love comments and feedback – and other favorite Italian recipes!

Buon appetito!

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